Major Donor Game Plan: Request

We’ve been unpacking the 6 R’s of major donor fundraising: (1) Research, (2) Relationship, (3) Request, (4) Recognition, (5) Recruitment, and (6) Report. All 6 R’s are important but perhaps the one most misunderstood, misused, and underdelivered is Request. The Ask involves both the art and science of good stewardship practice. Asks fail for two reasons: (a) we never make the ask or, (b) we don’t know what to say or how to say it.

Matthew 7:7 encourages us, “Ask and will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” James teaches, “You do not have because you do not ask.” Should we be making requests in this pandemic? Allow me to answer that question with a resounding YES!

Preparation and Perspiration

Making requests is hard work, but an ask is the ultimate opportunity to fulfill your annual, capital, and endowment funding needs. Now that you’ve completed the first two steps of research and relationship-building, the most difficult task is setting the appointment. It may take several calls, texts, and e-mails. There is the perspiration. Be faithful and persistent. You need to see your donor in person. Mega/major donors will often ask that you send them the proposal. Don’t make that mistake; your close ratio goes way up if you can see your donor in person or on Zoom.

Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD)

The FUD syndrome stymies many donor requests. Stewardship officers often suffer from Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. Questions can paralyze us. Is the ask too big? Too Small? Or about right? Do we have the right materials? Has our research clearly identified their hot button?

It’s human nature to feel some of these conundrums as we approach a major donor meeting. We fear offending the donor. We may be uncertain if they are ready to give. We doubt if they can give at the amount we are asking them to consider. Now wait a minute. You have done the research and have drilled deeper with the relationship. If you know you have shared values, be confident!

When you schedule your in-person or zoom meeting let them know you would like to share a personalized gift proposal. A bit of perspiration (working hard to set up the appointment) will have a huge impact on your production and their participation level.

No Heavenly Hinting

Most major donors are quite sophisticated, so please avoid any form of “Heavenly Hinting.” Be specific, straightforward, and forthright. ASK! Too much proverbial “beating around the bush,” communicates to the donor that you are unprepared, unaware, or suffering from a severe case of FUD. This should be a 30-minute presentation more or less; it’s certainly not an all-day event. Major donors have shared with us some “Heavenly Hinting” statements from some of their favorite ministries:

♦ “We believe the Lord wants us to do this and there may be people whom he wants to help us.”

♦ “We believe God’s work done God’s way will not lack for God’s supply.”

♦ “We are praying that God will open the windows of heaven and meet our needs.”

These are all great statements but your Research and Relationship-building with this donor couple has prepared them and you to make a specific Request!

It’s Personal

Take along a personal request or be ready to jot down on your yellow pad a specific amount or at least a range of giving you are requesting. People tip God because we give them the opportunity to tip him! Win, Keep, Lift applies to Mega/Major Donors.

Who and Where

Who is the right person or persons to make the ask? A couple of weeks ago I made a $500,000 request and three of us went on the donor visit. We informed the donor couple in advance who was coming and why. It was a mentoring opportunity for me with their CEO, and campaign chair. They shared the story, and I made the ask. The couple received us and the ask very well.

We have coined the phrase “Kitchen Table Ask” (KTA). Where is the best place to make a request? Their kitchen table. It’s not at Starbucks, or a local restaurant. Your office or their office can work as well, but nothing is as personal as their kitchen table. Not even their living room or family room, the best place is the kitchen table.

Just Do It

This is not rocket science, it’s all about relationships and preparing each ministry partner for a sit-down KTA. Ergonomics is the study of fit. Your mega/major donor has got to fit the culture of your organization, the project, and the ask amount. Treat every significant ministry partner as a small mini campaign. Build the request around their giving interests and your needs; then go test it. Meet them in person or over Zoom and make the ask. Go for it and remember to practice Pat’s 4 C’s: See the People, See the People, See the People, and See what God is going to do with the relationship.


About the Author: Pat McLaughlin President/Founder – Pat started The Timothy Group in 1990 to serve Christian ministries as they raise money to advance their missions. TTG has assisted more 1,800 Christian organizations around the world with capital, annual, and endowment campaigns. More than 25,000 of Pat’s books, Major Donor Game Plan, The C Factor: The Common Cure for your Capital Campaign Conundrums, and Haggai & Friends have helped fundraisers understand the art and science of major donor engagement. Pat makes more than one hundred major donor visits annually and provides counsel to multiple capital campaigns. 

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